by Lydia Makaroff, Director of the European Cancer Patient Coalition
Today’s cancer treatments are becoming increasingly complex. While the idea behind surgery is relatively simple – cut out the tumour – many of the new cancer treatments are based on more complex strategies. The complexity of these approaches can leave some people with cancer feeling left behind – as if everyone in the hospital room understands their treatment except them. This can often mean that people with cancer are not able to act as equal and informed partners in their health care.
by Mark Lewis MD, CKN Social Media Editor
When I started my fellowship in medical oncology in 2009, there were 2 inalienable truths.
First, as we assessed the weaponry we could deploy against cancer, we identified only three angles of attack: surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. The first two were, in essence, local therapies, effective only where the scalpel or the high-energy beam was directed respectively to excise or ionize a tumor. Chemo was different because it was systemic, diffusely delivered, and the exclusive armamentarium of the medical oncologist, whose expertise lay in administering chemicals to poison malignant cells while trying to limit collateral damage to the host’s normal tissues. If the cancer signified weeds in the garden, this was akin to dispensing pesticides artfully enough to preserve the good plants. But it was hard to avoid a black thumb. Wistfully we hoped for a more discriminating way to stymie the growth of the bad actors, envious of the targeted aim of our colleagues in surgical & radiation oncology.
by Dr. Robin McGee, Living with Cancer
Recently, I made it to five years post-surgery for stage IIIC colorectal cancer.
Technically, by NCI guidelines, I am not a five-year survivor until I reach the anniversary of the last day of my last treatment. For me, not until April.
by Phil Gold CC, OQ, MD, PhD, Editor, Current Oncology and CKN
Dr. Gold comments on this article from the Globe and Mail Jan. 9, 2015: Scientists unleash the power of immunotherapy on stubborn cancers
Perhaps the earliest attempt at the immunotherapy of human cancer, in the ‘modern era’, can be traced to William Coley who had seen tumour regression in patients with erysipelas near head and neck cancers. Extending this observation, Coley’s toxin, as it came to be called, was a mixture of killed bacteria that he injected directly into the tumours of patients with head and neck cancer. In a significant number of cases, a regression of the tumour was seen, although seldom “cured”. This work was done in the 1890’s at Memorial Hospital in New York and it’s interesting that Anton Chekhov, in his capacity as a physician rather than a composer, had recorded similar findings in the late 1880’s in his patients in Russia.